The Prophet (saw) said:
“…Knowledge will be removed by the death of the scholars…” [Saheeh]
Some consider this hadeeth to be valueless saying that even when the scholars die, their books remain, so the death of the scholars is not a calamity upon the Ummah.
In explaining this hadeeth Shaykh ‘Umar Baazmool said:
“Knowledge will be removed by the death of the scholars just as the Messenger of Allaah (saw) said. Perhaps its relativity can be clarified by the following affairs:
1) The scholar magnifies the religion and the legislation. He encourages the people and calls them to practise its sunan and obligations. How many sunan have been compiled and recorded and Allaah has manifested it by the hands of a scholar so that he calls the people to it, teaches them, and encourages them to revive it. This does not occur merely by the presence of books.
2) The scholar is a righteous example for the people. The people plainly see the religion practiced by him, and an example is the greatest of tools in cultivation and education… If the scholar dies, the image of the religion amongst the people that he was upon is lost. An example which is not achieved merely by books.
3) The scholar possesses fiqh, knowledge-based aptitude, and skill that aids him in extracting religious verdicts (fataawaa). When a calamity occurs, he is able to expeditiously extract the religious verdict, teach it, and spread it among the people. Explaining the religious verdict (fatwaa) of this calamity along with this aptitude and skill does not come from simply reading books during a calamity. Rather it comes from years of experience and discourse with the scholars.
4) The scholar has collected and gathered understanding of the book, sunnah, sciences, education, experience and understanding of the affairs and conditions of the people that do not exist in any book. If one desires to gather all of that, it would take a very lengthy time. Therefore the scholar has only achieved this after many years of his life starting at the beginning of his quest (for knowledge).
5) A book does not comprise what is needed to affirm the legislative verdict (fatwaa) concerning a specific issue. You would need to refer to more than a book. You would need to know the weightier opinion when there is a difference of opinion, and you would need to apply the principles of the people of knowledge. A book does not produce this. A book does not deliver a religious verdict (fatwaa) to a person seeking a fatwaa. A book is not able to determine the religious verdict and apply it in the courts.
6) The absence of a reference point… The people will have no reference point to return to during calamities and catastrophies, so they fall into turmoil and chaos, except for whom Allaah has willed otherwise.
7) Taking the ignorant as leaders. This is the end result of the absence of a reference point and a person’s need of someone to refer his questions to.
…Therefore, knowledge is removed by the death of the scholars as the Messenger said.”
[Interaction With The Scholars, by Sh. ‘Umar Baazmool, Pp. 99-103]